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Patience. Patience. Patience: Caring for a Child with Autism

Every parent and in home caregiver of an autistic child knows that the disorder brings daily challenges and triumphs as these children struggle to process the world around them on different sensory levels. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by significant impairments in social interaction, communication, and unusual behaviors or interests.

Daily Challenges of Autism

“The daily challenge of raising a child with autism is understanding that the thinking and processing architecture in the child’s brain is different than yours,” explains Ellen Notbohm, an award-winning author of books about autism and mother of an 18-year-old autistic son.

In Notbohm’s book, “Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew,” she states: “Some days it seems the only predictable thing about it is the unpredictability.”

Autism is different in every child so home help services that works for one, may not be effective for another and autistic children do not necessarily have the same symptoms, or same severity of symptoms.

This also means that the challenges of tending to children with autism may include feeding difficulties, communication struggles, aggression, hyperactivity, heightened sensory awareness, and more.

The Power of Consistency

Joy Smith, a mother of four, has a six-year old son, Adrian, who is autistic. Smith has found that consistency is a key way to help Adrian, but it is challenging.

“I know that a stricter routine is better for him, but him being on a strict routine means that I also have to be on a strict routine -- and that is hard for me,” she says. Smith writes about the details of life with her autistic son on her blog,

The first signs of Adrian’s autism were noted during a check-up when he was 15-months old. At 20-months he was diagnosed with autism and mild mental retardation. Such early detection is key in getting a child with autism into therapy as soon as possible.

A few tips for parents and in home caregivers of children with autism include:

Avoid touching and hugging someone with autism as they typically do not like to be touched or manipulated by others (though they may want to touch or hug someone themselves).

Provide loose-fitting clothes since the sensation of tight-fitting clothes can aggravate them.

Always be consistent as this helps them know what to expect.

Caring for Autism Day-by-Day

Notbohm encourages caregivers of children with autism to keep in mind how differently the child sees and experiences the world around him.

“Our way of experiencing the world is natural to us but it is foreign to him,” she says. “He experiences the sensory world differently, processes language differently and interprets social cues differently.” She says that parents and in home caregivers have to be willing enter the world of the autistic child.

Her advice: “Patience. Patience. Patience.” And to see autism as a “different ability, rather than a disability.”

The triumphs that Notbohm and her son have experienced have happened “in tiny increments, day by day, from the day he was a sensory-dysfunctional, barely verbal toddler.” It’s not just that her son is graduating from high school with honors this year, ran track and field for six years, and interned at film schools over the past few summers, but that he has become more social and self-sufficient along the way. “He coached, mentored and chaperoned younger student in film school,” she says. “He handles money responsibly. He travels everywhere by public transportation. He grocery shops, cooks for himself, mows lawns, cleans house. He voted in the last election.”

Perhaps it is knowing that these things are even possible for her own son someday, Smith says her daily triumphs are seeing progress in Adrian’s development. “Every sentence is an accomplishment,” she says. “It feels so good to see things click with him and come out of his world and come more into our world.”


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